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Department of Physics
Events

The Hofstadter Memorial Lectures

Monday, April 6, 2009

Professor Alexander Vilenkin

William R. Hewlett Teaching Center at the Science and Engineering Quad (TCSEQ)
370 Serra Mall, Stanford University

The Department of Physics is pleased to announce that the annual Robert Hofstadter Memorial Lectures will be given this year by Alex Vilenkin.  Prof. Vilenkin has been doing research in cosmology for about 30 years and has introduced a number of novel ideas to the field.  He has published over 170 research papers, a monograph, “Cosmic strings and other topological defects,” and a popular book entitled, “Many Worlds in One: The Search for other Universes.” Vilenkin is best known for his work on cosmic strings, eternal cosmic inflation, and the creation of the universe from nothing.  He has also studied the implications of the possible existence of multiple universes.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Vilenkin received his undergraduate degree in 1971 from Kharkov State University. He was drafted into the Army and then worked at various jobs, including a night guard at a zoo, while doing physics research in his spare time. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1976 as a refugee and received his Ph.D. from SUNY Buffalo the following year. After spending another year as a post-doc at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, he joined the faculty of Tufts University, where he currently occupies the L. and J. Bernstein Chair in Evolutionary Science.  He also serves as Director of the Tufts Institute of Cosmology.

Evening Public Lecture (8:00 PM on Monday, April 6, 2009)
Hewlett Teaching Center, 370 Serra Mall, Rm. 200
"Many Worlds in One"

Recent developments in cosmology suggest that the big bang was not a unique event in the cosmic history.  Other big bangs constantly erupt in remote parts of the universe, producing new worlds with great variety of physical properties.  Some of these worlds are similar to ours, while others are strikingly different and even obey different laws of physics. I will discuss the origin of this new worldview, its possible observational tests, and some of its bizarre implications.
Afternoon Colloquium (4:15 PM on Tuesday, April 7, 2009)
Hewlett Teaching Center, 370 Serra Mall, Rm. 201
"Measures of the Multiverse"

Recent developments in cosmology suggest that much of the universe is in a state of explosive, accelerated expansion, called inflation.  We live in a finite "bubble" where inflation has ended, and other bubbles with diverse properties are constantly being formed.  All possible events will happen an infinite number of times in such an eternally inflating "multiverse."  We have to learn how to compare these infinities, since otherwise we cannot distinguish between probable and highly improbable events, and thus cannot make any predictions at all.  I will discuss some proposed approaches to this "measure problem" and some recent progress towards its resolution.

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Robert Hofstadter, winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize, was one of the principal scientists who developed the Compton Observatory, and a professor at Stanford University for many  years until his death

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